09 June 2021

the Forum on Trade, Environment and the SDGs (TESS) Launch Statement

In the wake of World Environment Day, the Graduate Institute and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) are proud to announce the launch of their new partnership, the Forum on Trade, Environment and the SDGs (TESS), to support dialogue and action on trade policies to address urgent global environmental crises and advance implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

TESS aims to catalyse policy action across the trade, environment and sustainable development communities through a versatile, needs-driven and outcome-focused toolbox of activities. Mandated to ‘connect, inform, analyse and empower’, the work of TESS will combine public facing events and policy briefs; expert and stakeholder roundtables; and off-the-record consultations key to supporting international policymaking processes.

In 2021, a core focus of TESS is to support informed, action-oriented dialogue on trade and sustainability in the lead up to the WTO’s 12th Ministerial Conference on pressing topics of climate change, plastic pollution, and sustainable agriculture, among others. To facilitate engagement with the range of actors keen to renew attention multilateral cooperation and identify ways forward, TESS will be supported by a regionally diverse International Advisory Network composed of experts from international organisations, NGOs, civil society, business and the research community.

Based at the Graduate Institute, TESS is housed in its Geneva Trade Platform. The founding financial supporters of TESS include the government of French Ministry of Economy and Finance and private philanthropic foundations.

To join the TESS community, follow us on twitter @TESSForum and sign up for the TESS mailing list at

We are proud to announce this new partnership with UNEP. Our involvement with TESS reflects the Graduate Institute’s long-standing engagement with International Geneva, and our commitment to sustainability as core to the Graduate Institute’s vision and mission. TESS is a timely response to the growing interest in revived multilateral cooperation on the critical intersections of trade, environment and the SDGs and the need for more inclusive global governance.


Marie-Laure Salles, Director, The Graduate Institute Geneva

The world faces triple environmental crises of climate, pollution and biodiversity loss. At UNEP, we are delighted to partner with the Graduate Institute to foster multilateral cooperation on the trade and trade policies needed to promote green economies and sustainable development and to phase out unsustainable trade, production and consumption. International agendas on sustainable trade must respond to developing country priorities and advance progress on the SDGs, and will require more interaction between trade and environment policy communities. Based in International Geneva but with a global outlook and advisory network, TESS is designed to respond to these priorities.


Steven Stone, Chief, Resources and Markets Branch, Economy Division, UNEP


This is a launch and also an invitation. TESS offers a forum where policy makers from a diversity of countries and different parts of government can come together with experts from intergovernmental organisations, NGOs, research institutes, business organizations and civil society in a genuine strategic dialogue, unafraid of differing views but moving always toward more sustainable trade and trade policies. By connecting the dots, working through collaborations, and focusing on inclusive dialogue, especially with actors in developing countries, TESS aims to add value to existing work and facilitate concrete outcomes. I hope that you will join us.


Carolyn Deere Birkbeck, Founding Director, TESS